Friday, August 19, 2011

The Riots Part 6 - Perverting the course of justice

For those found guilty of rioting, looting, receiving stolen goods etc. there are variable sentences available and are set down by statute. As to which sentences should be given from those available there are set guidelines made available from the Sentencing Council.

So how did two men with no past criminal record get four years for inciting a riot that didn't happen?

Perhaps because the magistrates were being advised by HM Court and Tribunal Services. Except here's the problem - did I mention HMCTS at all during my opening paragraph about sentencing? I did not and this wasn't a lapse on my part; because they don't have a say in the matter.

Don't believe me check out what the Ministry of Justice themselves say. Mention of statute sentencing and the Sentencing Council's guidelines. however note that

When sentencing offenders, courts must follow relevant sentencing guidelines unless it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so. So, if a judge or magistrate believes a guideline sentence doesn’t allow the interests of justice to be served, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline. In these cases, the judge or magistrate must always state the reasons for this in their sentencing remarks in open court . 
So if a judge or magistrate themselves believe that they need to step outside the guidelines they can do so provide they state their reasons. Except it seems in case they've been told to do so. By whom?

Well it's not the Sentencing Council who themselves are looking into the harsh sentences; and apparently not the Minster for Justice who's denied all knowledge. This appears to have come from HMCTS itself. So given that they have no jurisdiction over this matter the next question is - why did the magistrates follow such guidance?